Grants offered to farmers for in-vessel composting

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

By Haley Schichtl

During Carroll County’s annual poultry registration, the Conservation District had representatives from Ecodrum to talk about their in-vessel composting system and served lunch to those registering.

District conservationist Kristin Whittmore said the district received a $600,000 grant from Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for a five-year program to help offset the cost of in-vessels from Ecodrum for Carroll County poultry producers.

“They’re expensive, but they’re more environmentally friendly; they run off of electricity,” Whittmore said. “There’s so much more value to them than the methods we currently use. So we wanted to offer that opportunity to growers in Carroll County if they have a need for it.”

She said there are 181 poultry growers in Carroll County who have gone antibiotic-free, leading to a higher death rate among poultry. Although most farmers already have a means of disposal for dead birds, it might not be sufficient for the mortality rate they now have to deal with.

Whittmore said RCPP has funded five people’s Ecodrums in 2019, and they have had nine more people sign up to be considered for funding.

John Green, representative from Ecodrum, said there are many benefits to in-vessel composting.

“Composting is a process of breaking down a nitrogen source with a carbon source. We use shavings; everything is made out of carbon. Your mortality is your nitrogen. You mix that at the proper ratios and get compost,” Green said. “In-vessel is another method of that that keeps it all contained.”

He said keeping the compost contained means protection from the weather and scavengers and less odor.

Whittmore said dead birds are put in at the top of the drums, and two buckets of shavings should be added for every one bucket of birds.

She said people in the county are currently using static bins or incinerators for composting.

“For the static bins, they put in dead birds and layer it with litter,” Whittmore said. “Once it reaches a certain temperature, they turn it. It’s a process, and during that process, you have varmints, coyotes, skunks and dogs dragging chickens out.”

“As opposed to a static bin, this is a continuous feed system, where it turns every day,” Green said. “With a static bin, you have to put so much in this bin and let it sit and move to the next bin.”

Whittmore said incinerators, which are used to burn waste, smell terrible and are expensive and time-consuming to operate. She said farmers often get incinerators that are too small, but with this program they will size the Ecodrum to fit the farmers’ needs. There are four different sizes of drums, so they also have the option to extend it later on if they initially had a smaller size and need more room.

For more information on Ecodrum, visit or contact your local USDA office at 870-423-2638 and talk to Whittmore about options on funding to help you with your means of disposal.

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